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7. Bugles, Flügels, and Horns

Elisa Koehler Indiana University Press ePub

7  Bugles, Flügels, and Horns

Although musicians today affectionately refer to any high brass instrument as a “horn,” the term originally referred to instruments made from organic materials. The shofar, usually crafted from the horn of a ram or a goat, is perhaps the best-known example of this original meaning still in use (figure 7.1). The ancestor of the cornetto may well have been a cow horn with finger holes. Even a conch shell has been used as a signal instrument in nonwestern cultures.1

Most of these instruments, like the fictional “Horn of Gondor” depicted in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy, carried religious or cultural significance and were crafted from animal horns. In fact, the term “bugle” descends from the Latin buculus, which means “bullock,” or a young bull, the source of the horn. The medieval oliphant—just as its name implies—was made from the tusk of an elephant. Bronze bugle-horns were later designed to imitate the shape and function of these animal horns, such as the twelfth-century moot horn (ca. 1180) that resides in Britain’s Winchester City Museum.2

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5. The Slide Trumpet

Elisa Koehler Indiana University Press ePub

5  The Slide Trumpet

Unlike the natural trumpet, the modern Baroque trumpet with vent holes, and the cornetto, the slide trumpet has not enjoyed a similar level of attention in the period instrument revival. The reason may be that the term “slide trumpet” describes three or more different instruments depending on the historical time period, musical style, and geographical location under consideration. The instrument’s repertoire is also partially to blame, some of which remains a source of conjecture, especially several cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. The primary focus of this chapter is the tromba da tirarsi and its predecessors, along with the flat (or flatt) trumpet and the English slide trumpet, as well as related instruments such as the corno da tirarsi and the soprano, or piccolo, trombone, which makes occasional cameo appearances in jazz performances under the name “slide trumpet.”

Before going any further, it is necessary to acknowledge that the trombone evolved from the slide trumpet in the Renaissance and that for some time these two cylindrical brass instruments and their slide mechanisms were not standardized. Also, details of instrumental construction and nomenclature were rather fluid in the sixteenth century. Differences between the horn, the trumpet, and the trombone became more distinct in the seventeenth century.1

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2. The Natural Trumpet

Elisa Koehler Indiana University Press ePub

2  The Natural Trumpet

The foundation of trumpet performance technique is the harmonic overtone series. Trumpeters are exposed to this concept the first time they are required to play what are commonly known as “lip slurs,” or passages that involve changing pitches without the use of valves. This is the purest form of trumpet technique; however, the term is misleading. Lip slurs primarily involve variations in air velocity and the shape of the oral cavity to change pitch while the strength of the embouchure (lip vibration) remains more or less constant.1 The technique is similar to the movement of the tongue inside the mouth while whistling rather than any rapid changes in lip pressure or embouchure formation.

On a twenty-first-century trumpet with valves pitched in B-flat (subsequently referred to as the “modern” B-flat trumpet; figure 2.1), the overtone series is commonly experienced as the “open notes,” or those pitches produced without the aid of valves. The available pitches are rather limited (example 2.1), and even higher notes are obtainable, based on individual ability.

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20. Brass Chamber Music

Elisa Koehler Indiana University Press ePub

20  Brass Chamber Music

When compared to other genres, chamber music was truly the final frontier of artistic brass playing in terms of repertoire and status. The trumpet and the cornet had succeeded as solo instruments since the late nineteenth century and had become leading voices in bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles, but there was no mainstream brass equivalent to the piano trio, the string quartet, or the woodwind quintet until the mid-twentieth century. The slow and winding development of chromatic brass instruments outlined in earlier chapters understandably delayed the formation of brass trios, quartets, and quintets; however, other factors concerning playing technique, endurance demands, social norms, and suitable repertoire also played a role.

Chamber music, as a genre, developed during the Classical era, when wind bands were in their infancy and brass instruments mostly traveled in packs rather than as groups of mixed instruments. There were horns for the hunt (trompes du chasse), trumpets for the military, and trombones in church, but only the horn (using hand-stopping technique) and the keyed trumpet participated in genuine chamber music during the Classical era. Although the repertoire of cornetto and sackbut ensembles was adapted for modern brass quintets in the twentieth century, Renaissance wind bands precede the notion of chamber music under consideration here, but they did of course play a form of chamber music in their day.

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Appendix B: Significant Events in Trumpet History

Elisa Koehler Indiana University Press ePub

Appendix B: Significant Events in Trumpet History

It can be a challenge to keep track of the numerous developments in trumpet design and repertoire over the past four centuries. With so much important new research coming to light over the past thirty years, it’s easy to lose sight of the narrative amid the excitement of new discoveries and the bewildering proliferation of new technology. The following list provides a helpful summary of significant events in the development of the trumpet family for quick reference as well as a dose of chronological perspective.

1511: Sebastian Virdung’s Musica getutscht, the first book about musical instruments, is published.

1584: Cornetto player Girolamo Dalla Casa publishes Il vero modo di diminuir in Venice.

1607: Monteverdi writes for a trumpet ensemble in the opening “Toccata” for his opera L’Orfeo, but not as part of the opera orchestra.

1614: Cesare Bendinelli publishes the first known trumpet method, Tutta l’arte della trombetta.

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